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Doing God’s Will in a World Gone Wild

Have you heard small group members talk about discord they’ve experienced?  “If I have to hear one more negative comment about (insert name of political candidate they admire) I am going to explode!”  Or, “I have the worst neighbors!  They always (insert an unpleasant behavior).”  And there is always, “I’m going to give up all my social media; people’s posts have become so toxic!”

The madness of the year 2020 did not die in the year 2021, but Christians are called to look at eternity, not current circumstances.  Are you looking for studies to help you with all the divisiveness in our world – with a view to eternity in mind?   What about studies that teach how to show the love of Christ to family, friends or neighbors who are divisive in their politics or inflammatory in their behavior or comments?   Or studies to teach you how to do God’s will in this wild world in which we are living?   Look no further than these great studies, all found on Small Group Advisor.

Speaking the truth in love

“Keep it Shut” by Karen Ehman is a study about how our mouths can contribute to either discord or love.  Speaking the truth in love and dealing with our anger verbally are just two of the important areas covered in this six session study.

Connecting with others through love

“You Make me Crazy” by Rick Warren is all about loving those we find unloveable.  As it says about the study:  “We all have relationships that drive us crazy. Whether it’s a boyfriend or girlfriend, spouse, sibling, parent, co-worker, or crazy relative you see once a year at Thanksgiving, a crazy-maker can really make life difficult.  This six session video study from Rick Warren will help bring sanity to your relationships so you can do more than just coexist. Learn how to connect with the crazy-makers in your life through these six sessions.”

Living and showing love

“Start Becoming a Good Samaritan” by Michael Seaton is a six lesson course on changing the world through the kind of love shown by the Good Samaritan – love that acts. How can we not be excited about this study from the description alone, as a study “that will help your group look at issues like poverty, social injustice, the pandemic, the environment (all the hot buttons for divisiveness in our communities) and teach you how to make an impact today.”

Two Not On This Site  

Not listed on this website, but definitely on point for these divisive times are the two Bob Goff studies, “Love Does” and “Everybody, Always”.  Both of these studies teach about why we love and how we begin putting love into action.

 Let’s make 2021 a year with small groups all over the globe studying ways to shine the light of Jesus’ love into the darkness of discord and division.

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The Spiritual Growth Triad: Giving, Praying, Fasting

We are about halfway through the 2021 Lenten season, so while it may be too late to start a small group study about Lent this year, there are three elements of Lent that are worth studying any time, all year. They are:

* giving, the way we manifest the love of God to others;

* prayer, the way we connect with God;

* fasting, what we give up to draw closer to God. 

As you consider which topic and series to study, start by reading Matthew 6:2-3 which provides Jesus’ direction on giving, Matthew 6:5-13 regarding praying, and Matthew 6:16-18 on fasting, then reviewing the following suggested studies.

The premiere study on giving is Randy Alcorn’s four-session video “The Treasure Principle”.  Covering the treasure, the spirituality, the sacrifice, and the joy of giving, each session ends with a practical “live it out” guide for experiencing what you learn. Throughout the study, participants are encouraged to interact with God over the issues surrounding giving.  This is not a video study. Participants would be asked to do the readings between sessions and review the discussion questions together at the meetings. The study guide and optional companion book can be found here:

If you search the topic of “prayer” on the Small Group Advisor website, you will find many to choose from.  I want to highlight “Prayer – Does it Make Any Difference” by Phillip Yancey.  You will not find the soft-spoken Yancey to be the most exhilarating teacher, but the material is essential if you want to understand the most important aspect of our relationship with God – our communication with Him through prayer.  Yancey answers the most common questions about prayer and blesses participants with concrete answers and applicable reasons for and ways to pray.

The term fasting means to “abstain from” which covers a lot more ground than food and drink.  It is also about getting yourself uncluttered so there’s room for the best that God has for you.  It may mean giving up strongholds, in which case  “Goliath Must Fall”  by Louie Giglio would be a great study.  It could mean turning away from your discontentedness to seek the contentment only God can bring, so you’ll want to study “Satisfied” by Jeff Manion.  Maybe a study on abstaining from the need to control is in order.  Karen Ehman’s “Let. It. Go.” is a perfect fit.  Her six week studio teaches participants to put God in the driver’s seat and the benefits of surrender.

Any of these studies will serve to deepen your spiritual growth, so consider doing them in a row, over several months, to truly bring the spirit of Lent to your small group experience.

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DIVERSE BIBLE STUDY TEACHERS

With so much attention on diversity and inclusion right now, this seems like a good time to highlight  video studies from diverse Bible study leaders who are excellent at bringing the Bible to life for those who want to grow in their faith.  And isn’t diversity in our studies a good idea overall?   If we only ever listen to one spiritual teacher, especially one who is aligned perfectly with our own opinions and experiences, how can we hope to truly grow in our faith?  Mix it up!  Choose teachers of the gender opposite yours, teachers whose skin color differs from your own, teachers raised in other cultures, and so on.

Starting with my personal favorite, Jackie Perry Hill, her study on the book of Jude is probably the best I have ever done.   Her sermons are engaging and thought provoking and she brought the overlooked book of Jude to life for me.  A highlight of her study is the way she teaches her audience to go deep in any book of the bible.    She mined the book of Jude for all it was worth and has me waiting anxiously for her next study.  Her book of Jude study is available here:

You can not go wrong with Tony Evans if you want to remember what you learn in your studies months after you are finished with them.   He is a master of the analogy and word pictures that grab your mind and take hold, when he drives home a point.  My favorite from his John 1,2,3 study is the idea of our mind as a receiver and how it will not receive if it is not tuned in!   Simple, but effective!  You can find many Tony Evans studies at Amazon.com including Kingdom Marriage.

“Galatians, Accepted and Free” by Jada Edwards, is a study not to be missed.  Picture yourself in the living room of a funny, smart, transparent  friend who is teaching you about God’s deep love for and acceptance of you, and how to receive His good intentions for you.  That is exactly what it is like to participate in Jada’s study, available here:  

All three of these teachers are passionate that all should know the love of Jesus.  It is apparent how connected they stay to God, and how much work they put in to their studies to help unlock the Bible for all seekers.  These studies are very accessible and ask questions to help you go deep in your faith while encouraging growth in your journey.  

If you are looking for diverse teachers in the Top 100 studies on Small Group Advisor, look no further than Bianca Juarez Olthoff and her “Playing with Fire” study, or either of the Frances Chan studies, “Forgotten God” and “Crazy Love”.  

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SMALL GROUP COVID STYLE

I have been a group organizer all my life. Moving to Minnesota 20 years ago, I needed to meet people quickly, so I formed a “Little Girls Play Group” at which my daughter could also meet friends. Soon after, I hosted a Moms in Touch group in my home. I am a founding member of a 15 year old women’s book club and two years ago, I started hosting a Spiritual Book club with three women that has grown to six. I twice took on the daunting (for me) task of being a small group leader for young women in high school and then in middle school. With a lot of prayer and encouragement from friends, I began a Women’s Bible Study in my home one summer that turned out to be a much needed tonic for the women who attended. It is rare that I am not leading or joining a bible study group.

And then came COVID. With this horrible virus raging, there would be no in-person meetings. It was my weekly SKYPE bible study with my dear friend, Janice, creator of this site, that gave me an idea for a new kind of Small Group.

I started this group like all the others, by asking God what I should do, who I should invite and how it would work. What He organized was a group of five women who all know each other at least by sight, if not more closely. We are: one in Texas, one visiting Texas for the winter, one who lives two hours north of me and one who lives nearby, but not a group that could meet in person even if COVID were conquered. Once a week we log into Zoom or Facebook Messenger’s new video app and spend an hour studying God’s word and exchanging prayer requests.

It takes a little adjusting to do bible study virtually. We do miss the casual fellowship over coffee and tasty nibbles before discussion begins. Also, women have a tendency to all talk at once and we have learned to slow down and listen before we make ourselves heard. We have also learned to be patient and have a lot of grace for each other when we experience the inevitable technical issues of a virtual meeting. You may not believe it until you experience it for yourself, but the praying we do for each other can feel as close and comforting as the hugs which are inadvisable for now.

Our first study was Don McLaughlin’s “Love First”. You can get the DVD of videos at ACU Press Books, and you can download the small group questions in this PDF.

We all agreed this was a great study for COVID times, because as we have less opportunities to know people by meeting with them in person, the more likely it is we will judge them. The “Love First” study took us through 1 Corinthians 13 in the most meaningful way I have ever studied it, and we truly learned how to love God and love others through this study.

If starting a virtual bible study seems daunting to you, remember these truths: “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 NIV) and “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” (Matthew 18:20)

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Top 10 Bible Studies from 2020

As mid-January rolls around, I thought it would be a great time to look back at the small group bible studies that were released in 2020.  With COVID19 running rampant around the world, this year saw many of us hunkering down with our families and doing small group sessions virtually.  Fortunately, many of the new releases were actually filmed back in 2019 so there were plenty of fantastic studies to choose from for our virtual get-togethers on Zoom.

After watching and analyzing the available offerings, here is my list of Top 10 Bible Studies from 2020.  I hope you find them as inspiring as I did!  As always, feel free to leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments section.

NOTE – the videos for all of the studies (except Matchless and Better) are also available on Study Gateway so you could just stream them online and then buy the study guide from Amazon.com

 

#1) Forgiving What You Can’t Forget by Lysa TerKeurst

It seems like Lysa TerKeurst comes out with a new bible study every year.  Sometimes they speak to me and sometimes not so much.  But in this study, you can feel Lysa’s palpable pain as she has walked this journey of forgiveness herself.  How does one forgive the unforgivable?  This powerful study is a keeper.

 

#2) You Are Never Alone by Max Lucado

When you are in the midst of a storm, God is right there with you.  This study couldn’t have been more appropriate for the times and challenges that we face in 2020 and beyond.

 

#3) Meant for Good with Megan Fate Marshman

Using Jeremiah 29:11-14 as the basis for this study, Ms. Marshman explores how to listen for God’s voice, how to let go of your past, how to defeat anxiety, and how to finally and fully trust God’s plan for your life.

 

#4) 28 Day Prayer Journey with Chrystal Evans Hurst

Do you feel like your prayer life is lacking?  If you struggle with distractions, doubts, or consistency, this bible study will offer you great tips and suggestions so that you can start having simple, meaningful and heartfelt conversations with God.

 

#5) Galatians: Accepted and Free with Jada Edwards

One of my favorite bible studies for women released in 2020!   Galatians: Accepted and Free, features practical teaching from Jada Edwards based on the fact that God has called and chosen each of us.  As part of the beautiful word bible studies collection, the study guide is like a piece of art so get your crayons or colored pencils ready so you can share in the fun!

 

#6) Matchless: The Love & Life of Jesus by Angie Smith

This study will deepen your understanding of Jesus through biblical, historical, and cultural insight and help you see Him less as an iconic figure and more as an intimate friend.  Angie Smith unfolds the story of our matchless Savior—His mission, miracles, and message.

 

#7) Jesus Over Everything with Lisa Whittle

Lisa Whittle challenges us to put Jesus over everything- from simple to complex circumstances, heart to head understanding, in everyday application and see what really happens. Because only when He is first do we know what a truly transformed life feels like.

 

#8) Everything You Need with Dr. David Jeremiah

Drawing on 2 Peter 1:3–11, Dr. Jeremiah shows how there is help at your fingertips—help that will give you everything you need to walk life’s trail with resilience and strength. While many Christians feel unprepared to walk the journey of faith, you can be assured that God has provided the tools you need to guide your way—resources such as virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love.

 

#9) Get Out Of Your Head with Jennie Allen

One of my favorite bible study teachers for women shares the truth of how to get out of the spiraling and non-helpful thoughts/feelings that can take over our lives.  If you want to get free, join Jennie for this study through Philippians that includes video teaching, group discussion, and personal study that will inspire real change from the inside out and will help you choose to get out of your head and into the mind of Christ.

 

#10) Better: A Study of Hebrews with Jen Wilkin

This year I am focused more and more on Books of the Bible rather than just themes or topics so this new study from Jen Wilkin was a no-brainer for my top 10 list. In this verse-by-verse study of the Book of Hebrews, Jen Wilkin explores how God “provided something better for us” in the person of Jesus Christ (Heb. 11:40).

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NEVER A BETTER TIME TO START A SMALL GROUP

If the Small Group Advisor was going to have a theme verse, it would be Hebrews 10:25*: “not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another”.

You aren’t going to find a lot of verses or stories in the Bible in which God encourages us to go it alone. He tells us to rely on Him: Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. (John 15:4) He reminds us we need each other: The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (Genesis 2:18) and “A cord of three strands is not easily broken“. (Ecclesiastes 4:12).

Has there ever been a more important time for us to encourage each other as we face COVID, political divisions and unsettled economic times? Following are a few items to consider about starting a small group.


Who to Invite: This may require you to step out in faith (I’m no good at leading, I don’t know anyone, what if people say “no” may be running through your mind.) Get creative with this. Are there a group of people you’ve been wanting to get to know better? From your neighbors to your exercise class, your continuing education classmates to your bunko group, the pool is probably endless. Start with a period of prayer of several weeks, asking God to identify people He wants you to invite. Invite prayer partners into this process with you.

How to Organize A Small Group: Acts 2:42 says it all: They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Plan on choosing a study from the Small Group Advisor. Arrange to meet regularly. Include a meal as simple as soup and bread or an easy dessert that group members take turns providing. Pray at the opening and closing of every meeting. The opening prayer invites God into your time together and the closing prayer can be popcorn prayers sent up as you go around the group. NOTE: This is the ideal, post COVID scenario. In the meantime, a ZOOM or Facebook Messenger Video group chat can be just as meaningful and the only piece missing will be the meal.


How to Choose a Study: You aren’t going to find a better source than this Small Group Advisor website. Poll your members about topics of interest or books of the bible and filter by your group makeup: women, men, couples, etc. There are even a few listed under the “New Small Group” filter to get you started.

How to Encourage Commitment: Arrange a fellowship meeting the first time you gather, before you begin a study. Get to know each other through an icebreaker topic such as “why did you want to join a small group?” “What do you hope to get out of this small group?” “Are there any concerns you have about being in a small group?” Make sure everyone understands the importance of regular attendance and doing the between-meeting Bible study work. Nothing will frustrate group members more than differing levels of commitment. Everyone should have a sense of ownership of the health of the group.


So much good comes out of participation in a small group: a sense of being known, the assurance that people are praying for you and the privilege of praying for them, personal spiritual growth, support during hard times and people to celebrate with during good times, the knowledge that you are obedient to the call of God to come together in community, and finally, a closer walk with God who will be with you every step of the way. ” For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them“. (Matthew 18:20)


*All verses cited are from the NIV edition of the Bible.

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Online Bible Studies for Women

For the past year or so, Lifeway Women has been offering free access to 2 or 3 different studies each quarter. This is an ideal option for women’s groups that are meeting virtually to save some money and to get some direction on choosing a study. If you’ve never hosted or participated in an online/virtual bible study, here’s how it normally works.

  1. Watch – you watch the video and make notes of anything that stands out to you. You think about and answer the group discussion questions contained in your study guide.
  2. Discuss – you meet with your group via an online platform such as Zoom to discuss the video, discussion questions and pray.
  3. Study – you do your personal study exercises contained in most participant’s guides before watching the next video so you are ready to meet with your group again.
  4. Rinse and repeat.

Starting in January of 2021, they will be offering access to the following three studies (I highly recommend that each member of your small group purchase their own individual participant’s guide). My group utilized this opportunity to study Jude with Jackie Hill Perry and it turned out to be our favorite bible study EVER.

You can simply go to Lifeway and sign-up to participate in any one of the following studies that they are offering to kick-off 2021!

 

Option 1 – Matchless with Angie Smith

To kick off the new year, you can study Matchless—an 8-session study to search for truth as Angie Smith unfolds the story of our matchless Savior—His mission, miracles, and message. Through her signature wit and accessible style, Angie unpacks Scripture in a way that’s easy to understand, regardless of how long you’ve been studying the Bible (a great option for new believers!). This study will deepen your understanding of Jesus through biblical, historical, and cultural insight and help you see Him less as an iconic figure and more as an intimate friend.

Starts on Thursday, January 7. You’ll be able to watch the weekly teaching videos for free!* All you’ll need is a copy of the Bible study book to follow along with the discussion which you can buy at Lifeway or at Amazon.

*Videos will remain up for free until March 11, 2021 (11:59 PM CT).

 

Option 2 – U – turns with Tony Evans

Consider kicking off 2021 with one of my favorite teachers, Tony Evans. In this 6-session study about God’s direction over your life, Dr. Tony Evans shows you the reality of human freedom, the consequences that come from bad choices, and the way to reverse the consequences. By aligning your life choices under God’s Word and pursuing an intimate relationship with Him, you can experience the abundant life Jesus has for you. You get to choose whether or not you want that. And sometimes, you get to witness God change the direction of your life.

Starts on Wednesday, January 6. You’ll be able to watch the weekly teaching videos for free!* All you’ll need is a copy of the Bible study book to follow along with the discussion which you can buy at Lifeway or at Amazon.

*Videos will remain up for free until March 10, 2021 (11:59 PM CT).

 

Option 3 – The Battle Plan for Prayer with Alex & Stephen Kendrick

Develop a deeper walk with God as you seek the Lord for your battles first. The Battle Plan for Prayer Bible Study equips believers to create their own prayer strategy and be specific and strategic in prayer. This 8 session study features teaching by Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick on the topics of: what prayer is and is not, why God wants us to pray, specific areas of prayer, specific strategies for prayer, and more.

Starts on Tuesday, January 5. You’ll be able to watch the weekly teaching videos for free!* All you’ll need is a copy of the Bible study book to follow along with the discussion which you can buy at Lifeway or at Amazon.

*Videos will remain up for free until March 9, 2021 (11:59 PM CT).

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RightNow Media Limited Free Access

For those of you that aren’t familiar with RightNow Media, they are an online platform that offers access to over 20,000 different biblically-based videos for small groups, church leaders, families, youth groups and more. Normally, your church must sign-up and pay big bucks to give their members access. I find this annoying because not every church can afford to give all of their members access. We’ve been asking for a way for individuals or small groups to access the vast video library on their own to no avail. However this year due to the COVID19 crisis, RightNow Media has generously opened up at least part of their library to the general public for free. That means that from now through July 2021, you can get free access to thousands of videos including amazing small group studies. Just go to RightNow Media and click on link at the top that says “Access Limited Library”. You will instantly be able to stream their content on all your devices like iphone, android, tablets, Roku, fireTV, chromecast, etc.

We love using RightNow Media for our virtual small group because we can simply watch the videos on our own before meetings and then just get-together to discuss the questions and video notes. We each buy or download (some are free) our own discussion guide for the given study and do the personal exercises during the week between meetings. Here are my three favorite Books of the Bible Studies from RightNow Media and because I’m all about honesty, I’d suggest you avoid Philippians by Jo Saxton and Ephesians by J.D. Greear (not much substance).

The Book of 1st Corinthians with Jennie Allen

In this 12-part series, author and speaker Jennie Allen walks into the messy lives of the Corinthians and takes us through Paul’s words to the conflicted church. We’ll see how the truth of the gospel and the Spirit of God can empower us to choose to follow Jesus every day of our lives.

 

Gospel of Mark with Francis Chan

In this 11-part series on the Gospel of Mark, author and speaker Francis Chan invites us to walk with him along the ancient ways of the Master. Tracing the steps of Jesus and the Twelve through Israel, Francis explores the major themes of the Gospel of Mark, and asks: Are we willing to take this journey to embrace discipleship?

 

The Books of 1, 2 and 3 John with Tony Evans

Comfortable Christianity often means a weak Christianity. In this study on John’s three letters, Dr. Tony Evans challenges Christians who have grown comfortable and complacent in their faith. Fellowship with God is the essence of our faith, and Tony walks through 1, 2 & 3 John to paint a picture of love, obedience, and truth. In a world that hates Jesus, we are called to love Him and His people with a fierce love.

NOTE – the study and leader guides are all included and can be printed out directly from RightNow Media for this small group study.

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Best New Small Group Bible Studies for 2020!

Well I’ve spent the last two weeks updating the Small Group Advisor website….fixing broken links, updating pictures, getting the prices up-to-date, etc. In addition, I’ve been going through newly released studies from 2019 and 2020 to see if any would make the Top 100 Best Bible Studies cut.

After watching literally 35 studies and looking through matching study guides and Amazon reviews, I’ve found a couple studies that we feel meet our requirements. That means a couple of others from Andy Stanley’s pre-2010 collection got the boot from the Top 100. That isn’t because the studies aren’t good, but in some cases, the newer content just seemed more relevant to the times we are currently facing.

Please let us know what you think of these two new 2020 small group bible studies by leaving reviews on our website after you’ve completed the study. The Get Out of Your Head Jennie Allen study won’t be fully available until April, but you can already pre-order it and the Get Your Life Back study with John Eldredge is already available. Enjoy!

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Right Now Media – Book of Mark & 1st Corinthians

My women’s group decided earlier this fall that we are going to study each one of the Books in the New Testament. And the first two studies we chose were part of the new Books of the Bible series that Right Now Media is producing. These two studies are some of the best I’ve ever done and all of the participant’s have experienced significant personal and spiritual growth BECAUSE of these studies.

These Book of the Bible series videos are shot on location in Israel, Greece, and areas that relate to the topics being covered. It gave us a chance to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and to walk along with Paul on his journey. But the thing we loved most about this series is that the study guides include 5 daily devotionals each week with probing questions that really make you think about how to apply the principles in practical ways to your own day-to-day life. The bad thing about the study guides is that the print is too tiny so for us 50 year olds. It can be difficult to read. In addition, they are physically big so they are not very transportable on vacation or alternate locations.

First up, The Gospel of Mark with Francis Chan. We feel like Francis is a modern day prophet like Jeremiah of the old testament. He made us feel inspired and convicted with his style of delivery that pulls no punches. At the end of the study, you’ll be asked whether you are really ready to follow Jesus? Get more information about this Gospel of Mark study here.

Then we did The Book of 1st Corinthians with Jennie Allen. I had never done a Jennie Allen study before, but we loved following along with her in Greece. She felt genuine so it was easy for all of us women to connect with her and she delivered biblically-based teaching with passion. I walked away from this study feeling like a had a good grasp of the message and of the topics that God and Paul were trying to convey in this book. This study guide also included small group discussion questions to go with the videos so we liked the format a bit better than the one for Mark, but it still had print that was too small. But in any case, I’d highly recommend both of these studies and look forward to seeing what book will be released next. For more details about this study, visit BooksoftheBible.org